Monday, April 11, 2011

Best of Intentions

I've been neglecting this blog while I ran a program called "Bible in 90 Days." I was drug, kicking and screaming, to the program. The material was a bit more literal in interpretation of the Bible than I am comfortable with and there were bits of lectures and even promotional materials that were inconsistent with my understanding of the Bible, but... I had just followed my husband through two different cancer diagnoses in a single year and I was on the verge of creative burnout when it came to developing and offering creative programs for our adult education program, so I signed on. I hid my weak expectations from myself and from my committee and we started promoting the program. I thought we might have 50 people sign up to read the Bible and maybe 30 would finish.
Much to my amazement, 128 people signed up to read the Bible, cover to cover, 12 pages a day. We recruited small group facilitators to offer eleven small groups during the week. This past Friday, 93 of the 128 were recognized for completing the program. I am still exhausted.
What was interesting about reading the Bible in such a short time frame was how it distorted the realities of the Bible, particularly the long time between the first destruction of Jerusalem and the birth of Jesus. It seemed almost reasonable that Isaiah was predicting Jesus when, in reality there was some 800 years between Isaiah and Jesus and it was far more likely that Isaiah was predicting the restoration of God's people to Jerusalem than a savior nearly 1000 years in the future. Even Malachi's predictions were some 500 years before Jesus' birth which happens just pages later in the Bible.
Reading the Bible straight through also emphasizes inconsistencies. The two versions of creating woman are just pages apart and the two versions are very different. Similarly, Paul's inconsistencies regarding women are glaring when one reads the Bible so quickly. On one page, Paul is praising Phoebe or Prisca or some other female "fellow teacher" and a page later, he is almost screaming that women should be seen and not heard. It almost forces one to chose between understanding that Paul did not write all of Paul's letters or acknowledging that Paul seems almost bi-polar when it comes to the role of women in the church.
Reading the whole Bible brings new meaning to the snippets of the Bible we hear on Sunday morning. When we hear "to every thing there is a season" we can hear in our memories the verses before and after and remember how bleak and depressing the book could feel. When we hear the Easter story, we remember the little inconsistencies between the Gospels.
And yet, while reading the Bible in a short time frame points out inconsistencies and contradictions, it also allowed me to see a God who consistently wants to be in relationship with his people and a people who consistently break the bonds of that relationship. I have often talked about the Old Testament being a story of God's faithfulness to God's unfaithful people, but this trip through the Bible let me see that God's faithfulness to an unfaithful people did not end with Malachi. It didn't even end with God's ultimate effort to restore the bonds -- Jesus death and resurrection. God's people failed to recognize the sacrifice God made, the new and renewed Covenant God offered. Others took the easier route back to the old teachings when they were confronted with persecution.
I found Revelation to be less of the Omega of Alpha and Omega and more of a new Alpha, the beginning of yet another Covenant God offers to God's people. More than ever, I see if the Old Testament is Act One and the New Testament is Act Two, that we are living Act Three right now and, just like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, we wander in our modern wilderness, sometimes faithful, sometimes faithless.
So now you know where I have been for the last six months or so.

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